ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Accountability Mirza Shahzad Akbar on Friday said no “criminality” was committed in the case under which the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) had frozen nine bank accounts of real estate tycoon Malik Riaz and handed over the money to Pakistan.
“No criminality was committed in it, as it was solely a civil matter and not a criminal case,” Mr Akbar told a press conference in response to the question why no action was being taken against the real estate tycoon under Pakistani laws if money laundering was committed and the UK froze nine accounts of Malik Riaz.
While the presser was held apparently in reference to Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Marriyum Aurangzeb’s remarks in the National Assembly about the performance of Assets Recovery Unit (ARU) that he heads, the PM’s aide evaded most questions by journalists regarding the 190 million pounds recovery from the real estate tycoon by the NCA.
He kept hiding the inside story under the pretext of “an agreement of confidentialities” between the parties concerned and the NCA. He reiterated that no “criminality” was involved in the case, as it was solely a civil matter.
In reply to another question about the worth of London property being sold at the cost 50m pounds, Mr Akbar said: “The worth of the property was 15m pounds when it was sold by Hussain Nawaz, son of ex-premier Nawaz Sharif, who are also in London these days. However, he [Hussain] had overvalued the property at the time of its sale to Malik Riaz.
“The property has so far not been sold under NCA’s decision,” he added.
The PM’s aide gave credit of what he said ‘recoveries’ made by the Punjab Anti-Corruption Establishment (PACE) and National Accountability Bureau (NAB) over the past one and a half years to the ARU.
During the press conference, he shared with the media written replies to the questions of Ms Aurangzeb and said the federal cabinet approved ARU’s establishment on Sept 5 last year to bring all anti-corruption departments under one umbrella for centralised monitoring.
He said this had been done on the recommendation of a task force constituted by the Supreme Court in 2018. He said under ARU supervision, the Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) of Punjab managed to retrieve state land worth Rs129 billion in one year. “Although NAB is an independent organization, it also made recoveries during last year,” he added.
The PM’s aide said Ms Aurangzeb instead of questioning ARU’s performance through ‘concocted statements’ should seek answers to the question that he had asked her party president Shahbaz Sharif.
Ms Aurangzeb, he said, had been provided full information on ARU’s achievements, its administrative expenditure, details of the tours made by the ARU officials including himself and expenses incurred on them, and the authority under which the same were conducted, besides any proposal to carry out performance-based audit of such unit.
Responding to other allegations, Mr Akbar said PML-N leader Khurram Dastagir had criticised the Anti-Corruption Department of Punjab, only because it had retrieved state land from his illegal possession. The PML-N leader had established a petrol pump on the land in his hometown, Gujranwala, he added.
He said Ms Aurangzeb’s queries had no substance as she had no knowledge of ARU’s structure and its working. “The ARU has representatives of Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), NAB, Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) and private sector,” he added.
The SAPM said the ARU was in fact a coordinating unit that provided a platform to law enforcement agencies and relevant institutions to trace new cases and fast track all existing cases of off-shore assets made with unlawfully acquired wealth at home and their repatriation.
“The afore-mentioned agencies and organizations eventually recover the looted public money either through taxation, plea bargain or direct recovery, as the case may be,” he explained.
The government was looking for better cooperation and information sharing on money laundering with the UK regime, he said, adding that Pakistan had also handed over three wanted persons from the country to the UK authorities.
Responding to a question about Prime Minister Imran Khan’s nephew Hassaan Niazi who was among the lawyers who attacked Punjab Institute of Cardiology, Lahore, he said raids were being conducted for his arrest. “This is happening for the first time that police are conducting raids for the arrest of PM’s nephew,” he boasted.
Published in Dawn, December 14th, 2019